The treatment and installation of a monumental cedar sculpture by Ursula von Rydingsvard

Emily Hamilton


Ursula von Rydingsvard (1942– ) is best known for her large-scale, structurally complex sculptures made from cedar beams, which are often displayed outdoors. These works change in dimension due to shifting environmental conditions and may require supportive armatures and ongoing maintenance treatments to prevent pest and environmental damage. This article will address the treatment and installation of Czara z Babelkami (2006) at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of the inaugural exhibition in its renovated galleries. The treatment involved close collaboration with the artist’s studio to plane and stabilize sections of the work in response to previous dimensional changes. A surface treatment and long-term maintenance plan involving the use of a biocide and wood sealant was also devised with the studio. This  collaboration provided valuable insight into the construction of the work, parameters for acceptable changes, and a broader perspective of how this artist’s work is treated in other settings. Given the high seismic activity in San Francisco, a structural armature was designed in partnership with an engineer to support the work in case of an earthquake. The armature was designed to stabilize the work while allowing flexibility for further dimensional changes in response to outdoor environmental conditions. Installation on a newly renovated fifth-floor terrace space necessitated extensive planning to move the sections safely with a crane and forklift, serving as a case study of project planning in unknown spaces.

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2016 | Montreal | Volume 23